By a soldier
I must have thanked Javed hundred times earlier but again I walked up to him as we reached the base camp on our de-induction from a post on Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield on this earth. I hugged him and said, “Thank you Javed, tune mere haath bacha diye”.
“Saab bar bar thanku bol ke sharminda mat karo”, replied Sepoy Javed
“You don’t know Javed how bad it is to have ones fingers or limb amputated”, I said.
“Saab mere se jaida is baat ko kaun janta hai” replied Javed. I gave him a quizzical look after which he continued, “Saab, my father served here in Siachen in 1998. He fell down in a crevasse, and was rescued, but both his feet had to be amputated. I took care of him while he was in hospital. I helped him in coming out of his trauma of losing limbs and getting back to lead a life with a handicap.”
I couldn’t speak for a moment. Suddenly I blurted, “Why have you volunteered for this Siachen tenure, your unit was in peace, you could have had a good peace tenure.”
My father always says “Fauji must serve in Siachen. We are a family of soldiers, so I had to take up my challenge”
“Your mother didn’t stop you”, I asked.
“Yes she did, but my father said if you take precautions nothing will happen as now a days lots of new equipment has been introduced and facilities have become better.”
Now I could recollect why Javed did every activity by the book. In fact he was the one who as my buddy even chided me to follow the regimen. When I got chilblains, he helped me save my fingers as I could not be evacuated because of bad weather for ten days. When it opened up priority was given to another jawan, who had suffered an attack of HAPO ( High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema). The choice was between losing a life of one soldier or a limb of another. However, because of Javed’s care, my chilblain was reversed. Had it deteriorated to frostbite, gangarine would have set in and I would have lost some of my fingers, if not the whole hand.
I again saw my hands and moved my fingers to get the satisfation that I have completed my Siachen tenure and am now hale and hearty .
I moved towards the officers mess of the base camp. There was a hero’s welcome for me as I had served in one of the toughest posts at Siachen. The Commanding Officer shook- hands with me and other officers were there to offer me a drink. I did not feel like having anything. All this time I was thinking about how great man Javed’s father was, who inspite of his condition motivated his son to do so tough a tenure. I also felt bad for Sep Jasbir Singh who was martyred in an avalanche during my tenure here. He was always so cheerful. His words were still resonating in my ears “Saabji ghar pahunch ke mein Pulsar Motorcycle leni hai te Harminder Sahab matha tekana hai.”
I shaved my beard and had a good bath (after 90 days ). It was a mixed reaction to look at the myself in the mirror. The skin looked horrible because of the harsh weather, my hairline had receded at least one inch (at 26 years of age), but this was a small price as compared to losing ones life or limb. With a heavy heart I went off to sleep,but at around 3 O’Clock I was woken up to be informed that Javed has fallen sick . I immediately rushed to hospital. I could see Javed breathing heavily with a respirator and other monitoring equipment attached to his body. I wanted to meet him but doctors wouldn’t allow me. Doctors could only tell me that he has suffered from Cerebral Veinous Thrombosis (clotting in brain). Next day he was evacuated to Command Hospital, Chandigarh.
Ten days later when I was on leave I was informed that Javed had passed away in the hospital. I couldn’t believe this. I rang up my unit doctor asking him how could Javed die when he did everything as per the book. The doctor told me Siachen is a very hostile place and we cannot control all its effects. That super high altitude, icy winds, lack of oxygen and only preserved food can trigger any ailment in the body while you are there, or even after you leave that place.
I visited Javed’s parents. The toughest time a soldier can have is in meeting the parents of his fellow who is martyred and whom you love more than your own sibling. I had put up a brave front and avoided crying in front of them. On my way back I was feeling suffocated with pent up emotions. Time and again I remembered Javed’s words “Saab next chutti I am surely going to express my love to a cousin of mine whom I love from the bottom of my heart.” Suddenly on a secluded spot I requested the taxi driver to lock me in the car and wait at a distance for half an hour. In those thirty minutes I cried my heart out. After all a soldier is also a human and his heart too bleeds!!
This blog is written by a soldier and shared on a WhatsApp group consisting of former and serving army officers